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Carnival Miracle Cruise Review

Mexican Riviera, April 11, 2015

by Keith Henderson

My wife and I sailed on the Carnival Miracle leaving on April 11th, 2015 out of Long Beach, CA as a 7-day cruise to the Mexican Riviera. The cruise left Long Beach with stops in Mexico at the ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta before returning to Long Beach. It was our 8th Carnival cruise (24th overall). We have sailed on NCL 15 times and Royal Caribbean once.

We chose a west coast cruise out of Long Beach to revisit the Mexican Riviera and see some games at Dodger Stadium in nearby Los Angeles. The ship’s itinerary would let us visit Mazatlán for the first time. We had sailed on the Carnival Miracle a few years ago out of New York, so this was be the first time we would sail the same Carnival ship more than once. One thing that interested us was that the Miracle was to go through a dry dock and upgrades a month before we sailed on her. We were curious how those upgrades would add to our cruise experience.

Arrival in Long Beach
We flew into Long Beach airport from JFK in New York arriving at 6:00 pm the day before our cruise. As we were about to land, we could spot the Carnival Inspiration at the cruise port. After gathering our luggage, we went to the taxi stand to get a ride to our hotel for the overnight stay. We had hoped to get a hotel near the cruise port, but it was the weekend before the Long Beach Grand Prix car races and all of the hotels in that area had rates that were double or more than their normal rates. So we decided to book a hotel that was closer to the airport. We stayed at the Comfort Inn & Suites located on East Willow in Long Beach. It was a short 3 mile cab ride to the hotel. After checking in, we walked across the street for some burgers at a fast food place and then to get some drinks at a supermarket located there. We were tired from our flight, so we just headed back to our room to relax and start to adjust to the west coast time zone.

Day 1 – Embarkation Day
It was a sunny day with temps starting in the 50's F and rising to the low 70’s F in the afternoon. We got up and went downstairs for the breakfast buffet in the hotel. After breakfast, we walked across the street to a 24 hour pharmacy to pick up some last minute items. When we checked out, the desk clerk called for a cab to come and pick us up. The cab arrived within 5 minutes and the ride to the cruise terminal took less than 10 minutes as we hopped onto a highway that took us to the cruise port.

We had received several e-mails and robo-phone calls from Carnival asking us to arrive between 12:30 pm and 01:30 pm. But, we had to check out of our hotel by 11:00 am. So we figured we would take our chances in going directly to the cruise port from the hotel. We arrived at the cruise terminal at 11:00 am. It is located next door to the retired cruise ship, the Queen Mary, which is now a floating hotel. The cruise terminal building itself is a large white dome structure that was originally built to house the Spruce Goose, the world's largest wooden plane built by Howard Hughes. The plane had been sold to another museum which had it moved to their location in Oregon several years ago. They converted the large structure into a cruise terminal.

There were quite a few people already waiting in line to get into the terminal building. I queued up to the line while my wife found a seat under the shade of the canopy structure outside the terminal building. The line was moving very slowly and after being in line for about 45 minutes they announced that passengers for specific deck assignments (including ours) could now move from the line outside and enter the terminal building itself to form a new line.

When we walked into the terminal building, there was a short line for security before lining up for the sign-in process. It took another 40 minutes before we reached a clerk to check in. I had previously registered on line and provided all of our information, so we only needed to wait for our keycards and to have our photos taken for the ID match of the keycard. Next, we walked to the door leading to the pier. We finally walked onto the ship in about one and one half hours after arriving at the cruise port. It seemed like they did not have enough personnel to do the processing of passengers. I can see why they were asking people to come at staggered times, although most passengers we spoke with had the same story as we had. They either had to leave their hotel or they had just arrived straight from an airport with no place elsewhere to go to. I would have walked next door to visit the Queen Mary if we did not have a carry-on bag to pull around.

We tried to head up to our cabin on deck 7 to drop off our carry-on. It was an interior cabin (room 7217) which was mid-ship near the mid-ship stairwell. But when we got to our deck, the doors to the hallways leading to the cabins were closed. We did not hear any announcements regarding the time they would be available for us to enter. We headed up top-side to get a quick lunch at the buffet and to explore a little before going to our room around 1:30 pm to find that the room was cleared. We dropped off our carry-on and discovered that our small fridge in the cabin was not working (we had brought a 12 pack of diet Coke with us). We made a call to the front desk and they said that someone would be up to our cabin by the next day if not sooner. After the call, we did some more exploring of the ship.

The safety muster was scheduled for 4:00 pm. At 3:30 pm, we went to our cabin to find that both our suit cases had arrived. We quickly unpacked and then headed to our designated muster station. We did not have to bring our lifejackets to the muster, but had to stand outside in the hot sun for about 20 minutes as we waited for other passengers to arrive and then listen to the safety instructions. After the drill, we headed back topside to find a spot in the aft Serenity area for the 5:00 pm sail away. The ship did not leave until about 5:30 pm when it pulled away from the pier and went past several container cargo ships waiting to be unloaded at the nearby industrial terminals. Off to our right, we could see Catalina Island as we headed south towards Mexico.

For dining, the Miracle has only one main dining room called the Bacchus Restaurant that has two levels. For this cruise, we chose the “Your Time Dining” option. So, when we wanted to eat at the MDR, we would go to the upper deck of the restaurant to be seated. The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. For tonight, we decided to just grab a bite in the buffet for dinner.

The one show for the evening was the “Welcome Aboard Show” show in the Phantom Theatre at 7:30 pm. The Phantom Theatre holds about 1,000 people and has a variety of seating with most having good views. The show was hosted by the Cruise Director, Cory Rogers. He was very funny with his self effacing humor as he described himself as a combination of Drew Carey and the Family guy. He did a fun audience participation game and then had two of the comedians on board come out for a few minutes. Eddie Capone and Dwight Slade were funny.

After the show, we went down to the Red Frog Pub and listen to the house band that plays there each night called the "Hot Tub Rhyme Machine". The band, consisting of 4 musicians and two singers, were assembled by Carnival and then after a little time to rehearse together came on board. They were very good and could play a wide variety of music styles.

The Red Frog Pub was one of the new changes from the dry dock renovations. It replaced the Frankie and Johnnie's Jazz Club and was much larger than the one they put into the last Carnival ship we had sailed on (the Freedom). A huge bonus for us was that the Red Frog Pub was smoke free which was a big problem for us the last time we sailed on the Miracle. The Red Frog Pub on the Miracle only offered drinks. They did not have snack food to munch on or any kind of food menu like the one on the Carnival Freedom. In addition to the house band in the Red Frog Pub, they had solo guitarists and a musical duo playing a variety of music in different spots on the ship. They also had a DJ providing dance music in the disco nightclub (Frankenstein’s Lab). In Sam's Piano Bar, they had a pianist playing sing-along songs.

Down in the Punchliner Comedy Club located at the Mad Hatter’s Ball lounge on Deck 1 forward thy had the comedian, Dwight Slade performing this evening for one show at 10:45 pm. We ended our first evening on the ship by going to the comedy show and thought he did a good job.

Day 2 – Day at Sea
It was a mostly sunny day as we sailed down along Baja California with temps in the 70’s F and a strong cool breeze. The waves were relatively calm for the day. We slept in, waking up at 9:00 am. We checked the TV to find that we were halfway down the Baja coast moving at 21 knots.

We headed up for breakfast in the buffet at 9:30 am after which we went to the Phantom theatre to listen to a "Fun Ashore" presentation given by Cory the cruise director at 10:30 am. His presentation gave an overview of the ports we would visit, information about time changes for the ports, and as a bonus for staying through the presentation, you could win a free excursion for two for each port we were to visit. I was interested in the time zone changes and was glad to hear that they would be changing the ship's time to align with the local time. It is confusing when they do not match while in port.

We enjoy playing trivia and attended a few around the noon hour before grabbing a quick lunch. After that, I changed and went for a run on the deck 3 exterior promenade. They were only a few people on the promenade, so it was a relaxing run. After getting back to the cabin, I saw that they had replaced the fridge and we could use it for our soda.

The Miracle has 3 main pools. The Ulysses Pool and Siren’s Pool are found mid-ship on the Lido deck while the Serenity Pool is found aft. The Ulysses Pool has a retractable roof cover and this is where all the poolside activities occurred. Other activities occurring this day were a line dance class, a gemstone seminar, and a bean bag tournament.

For dinner in the Bacchus Restaurant, the dress code for this evening was Cruise Elegant. On the menu was lobster and prime rib. We decided to go to the Bacchus Restaurant for an early dinner. My wife (a fan of meat and potatoes) ordered the prime rib while I ordered a fish fillet. We both agreed that our meal in the buffet at lunchtime was better. The wait staff for our meal were terrific and friendly. They seemed to have worked out the kinks with the "Your Time Dining" as everything was delivered in a timely and orderly manner. A big improvement compared to our other recent Carnival cruises.

The evening’s entertainment in the Phantom Theatre was a new Playlist Production recently added after the dry dock. It was called "80's Pop to the Max" and the show consists of 4 singers singing to a music soundtrack while large video screens behind them show various scenes. They do not have full blown production shows with both singers and dancers along with a live show band anymore. We had seen the new Playlist shows on our last Carnival cruise and were not impressed. We decided to go to the Punchliner Club to see the comedians. For tonight, Eddie Capone had 3 shows (1 PG and 2 18+) and Dwight Slade had 2 shows (1 PG and 1 18+). We sat down for one of each. At the end of each show, they asked everyone to leave the club, but we stayed along with quite a few others. We thought the shows were good.

To end the evening, we stopped by the Red Frog Pub to listen to the band playing songs from the 80's. As we walked in, they were playing "Jessie's Girl" and Cory the CD was doing the singing and he was great. Most of the CD staff was in the pub mingling and dancing with guests. It was a fun time.

Day 3 – Cabo San Lucas
It was a sunny day temps in the low 80’s F and a comfortable breeze. We were scheduled to arrive at Cabo San Lucas at 11:00 am and a departure time of 7:00 pm. This port would require us to use tenders to go ashore since the port does not have piers that can accommodate large cruise ships. The local currency is the Mexican Peso where One $ USD equaled about 14 pesos. Every place accepted US dollars, but most would give change in pesos. Most signs showed costs in pesos, so we would divide that cost by 14 to get the USD equivalent.

This would be our second time to Cabo, a small city of 70,000 people. The first time we were there, we spent our day in port wandering around the area near the marina. So we were curious about seeing the area outside of the city. We had booked a Carnival excursion for this port of call. It was one called “Coastal Highlights” ($50 each). After having breakfast in the buffet, we watched as we approached the port by 9:00 am viewing the Arch, a famous rock formation located at the southern tip of Cabo San Lucas known as Land's End near Lover's Beach. It is at this point the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. We spotted about 20 or more dolphins jumping and flipping along the wake of the ship as we neared the spot that we would anchor. Some passengers said that they saw a few whales earlier. Shortly after we passed the Arch around 10:30 am, we dropped anchor in the bay and the tenders from the harbor were getting ready to bring passengers ashore. We were the only ship in port that day.

Because we had booked an excursion, we went to the Phantom Theatre to meet our group after which we would be called to go to a tender. Priority was given to excursion passengers, platinum members, and suite guests before open seating for all others would be available. They made the first call for tenders at 11:25 am. We were told to arrive at the Phantom Theater before 11:45 am to meet our group and that we had a scheduled 12:30 pm departure on shore. We arrived at 11:40 am and they called for our group along with 2 other tour groups at 11:45 am.

After walking down to the gangway, we got onto a tender boat from the harbor. It took about 15 minutes to make it to the docks at the marina of Cabo San Lucas to go ashore. As we approached the docks, we spotted several large sea lions swimming in the waters near us. Once ashore, they had a bus waiting nearby for our excursion. There was a full bus of 40 people on the tour. We did find out that our ship's time was one hour different than the local time! I did not understand why they did not have us change our ship's time to match the local time in Cabo the night before we arrived.

Our first stop was at a glass blowing factory located on the edge of the city. Miraculously, the building survived the recent hurricane with little damage. Inside, we watched a craftsman create wonderful glass figurines in just a few minutes for each one. One was a hummingbird flying into a flower while the other was a sea turtle drinking from a bottle of tequila. Both were very colorful. After the demonstration, we had 15 minutes to wander around the factory to shop. The next stop was at a spot on the eastern side of the bay area known as Capo Bello. We went to an Italian restaurant known as “Sunset Da Mona Lisa” which was situated atop a large cliff area overlooking the bay with wonderful views of the city, Lands End, the Arch, and the ocean. We could easily see our ship anchored in the bay. We stayed here for 30 minutes enjoying the views and a complimentary drink.

After leaving Capo Bello, we drove along the east coast of Baja California on a highway that would take us to San José Del Cabo. The diverse views with the blue waters of the Sea of Cortez on one side and the desert scenery on the other made for an interesting ride. Along the way, our guide, Paul gave us information regarding the area. He is a lifelong resident of Cabo and was very proud of the region and its history. It took about 30 minutes to reach San José Del Cabo, the municipality seat for the Los Cabos region of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. With a population of 70,000, it is a small community with a plaza area lined with art shops, restaurants, the city hall, and a mission church.

As we got off the bus, our guide took us to the church known as The Mission San Jose del Cabo Anuiti (Misión de San José del Cabo Anuiti) where he told us of the history of the church. It is a simple structure, but beautiful in its own way. After the tour of the church, we were told we had one hour to explore the art shops and restaurants before we would head back to Cabo San Lucas. We walked around the immediate area to shop and then went to a restaurant called Molly's (across from the church) for some cold beers. Several fellow passengers were already eating at Molly's and said the food was delicious.

On the ride back to Cabo, the tour guide showed pictures of the Cabo area before all of the development that has occurred over the last 25 years. We arrived back in Cabo by the marina area by 3:30 pm ship's time. From the parking lot, we took a quick walk to visit the Cabo Wabo Cantina to check it out. The Cabo Wabo is owned by the red rocker, Sammy Hagar and their website advertised live music all day. When we got there, the place was dead with only a few people in the bar area and no band playing on the stage which was disappointing.

We walked back to the pier and got in line for a return tender boat to the ship. It took about 15 minutes before we were on a tender heading back. Along the way, we saw some sea lions and pelicans among the fishing boats and large yachts anchored in the marina. Once on board, we headed up to the serenity area (adults only) to chill out and relax. We stayed there until after the 7:00 pm sail away watching a spectacular red sunset setting behind the hills and mountains of Cabo San Lucas.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. We went to the Horatio's Buffet for dinner before checking out the evening's entertainment. The main show in the Phantom Theatre was a magic/illusion show by Bobby Borgia. We were not interested in seeing a magic show so we chose to attend a few comedy shows in the Punchliner Club.

For tonight, they had the same two comedians as the night before. Eddie Capone had 2 shows (1 PG and 1 18+) and Dwight Slade had 2 shows (1 PG and 1 18+). We sat through both of Dwight's shows and the last show by Eddie. After each show, they asked people to leave the theater but we stayed along with others. None of the shows were full of people, so we did not feel guilty for staying. We thought all of the shows were good, just not great.

Later on, we stopped by the Red Frog Pub to listen to classic rock songs by the house band playing there. The pub was full of people and the band was great. The CD staff were in there as well. For tonight, we had a notice that asked us to change our clocks forward by one hour to match the local time for Mazatlán (which was the same as Cabo San Lucas). I still do not understand why they did not do that there night before Cabo, oh well.

Day 4 – Mazatlán
It was a sunny day with temps around the mid 80’s F and humid. We were scheduled to arrive in Mazatlán at 8:00 am and a departure time of 5:00 pm. We were to be the only ship in port that day.

This was our first visit to Mazatlán and had signed up via the internet for a city tour with a local operator called Mazatlán Tours by Johann and Sandra ($30 each) where we would meet the tour bus at 9:15 am by the cruise terminal for 4 hour tour of the city center. I woke up early and went upstairs to get some tea for us at 6:00 am. It was still dark and I could see the city lights in the distance. By 7:00 am the ship pulled into the bay, spun around, and was docked by 7:30 am. By 8:00 am, passengers were disembarking. In the cruise terminal building we were met by several people offering tours and taxi services. So if we had not made plans, there would have been many options.

The pier area is an industrial area lined with shipping containers and cargo ships. To get from the ship to the cruise terminal building, you had to take a tram for the short trip to the cruise terminal gates. The trams were provided for free by the port authorities. They would not let you walk past the barriers put around the gangway area. In the distance, you could see the old city center with its cathedral as well as the huge brewery for El Pacifico Beer. Both were close enough to walk to if you wanted to do that.

After having breakfast in the buffet, we headed down to the gangway at 8:30 am to go to the meeting point for our tour. When we hopped onto a tram, a person in a royal blue t-shirt came aboard and explained that he was an American ex-pat who now lives in Mazatlán. He told us that he and several other Americans volunteer as a welcome committee for the city and to offer advice and guidance to visitors to the city of over 400,000 people. The name Mazatlán means "land of the deer" in the native Nahuatl language. The symbol for the city has a deer head on it. The city is located in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

Our tour ticket mentioned Vista Tours, so when we asked where to meet their bus, every person politely pointed us to an area with umbrella covered tables near the edge of the complex by the parking lot. At just after 9:00 am, a person came up to the area holding a sign saying Vista Tours. Our bus had 16 guests from the ship assigned to it. By 9:15 am, we were off on our tour.

Our first stop was at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Basilica de La Inmaculada Concepcion) located in the old city area. Our guide, Marco took us inside to give us a tour and told us of its history and the significance of the symbols around the church. It was a beautiful building with interesting architecture. After the church tour, we had 15 minutes to walk about before we would walk to our next stop of the tour. We walked around taking pictures while some people went to the cathedral's shop to buy religious items. From the church, we walked 2 blocks to a large indoor market called the Mercado Pino Suárez that was built in 1899. Here we had 30 minutes to walk up the various aisles to look at souvenirs, clothing, fruits, vegetables, and meats. The place was very colorful and vibrant as we walked around from one area to another. Some vendors were very pushy, but most just said "buenos días" as we walked by.

After leaving the market, we hopped back on the small bus to go the shore to see the cliff divers. When we arrived along the Malecón (boulevard) area where the divers were located, we parked and then were taken to a viewing spot. All the while, we were approached by persons asking for tips for the divers. Once the divers got the signal that they had received money, each one took turns leaping the 50 meters into a shallow inlet of water, timing the dive with the incoming surf. We stayed long enough to view 4 dives.

After seeing the divers, we drove back into town to pass by a flower market (most of the flowers came from Guatemala) and then a large shrimp market (the city is known as the shrimp capital of the world). We then went back to the shore and drove along the Malecón (which is the largest in Mexico at 10 km). Along the way, we would pass statues and Marco would tell us about them. We then stopped at a jewelry store (free drinks and toilets) for 30 minutes. After that, we drove along the shore to the Golden Zone (an area with modern hotels and shops) where we stopped to visit a place that was a mango distillery called Onilikan. Inside, we were given a brief description of their products which they make from mangos or blue agave. After that, we had free samples of the various drinks and had a few minutes to walk around shopping.

For our final stop of the tour, we went to the edge of the Golden Zone for a stop at a restaurant located on the beach called "Tony's On the Beach". Here we spent over an hour sitting in the shade on an open porch with a wonderful view of the water and a cool breeze. We ordered a shrimp ceviche and beer. The ceviche serving was huge and more than enough for us. We spoke with the tour guide who answered questions about life in Mazatlán. We found out that the cost of living there was less than half of the cost over in Cabo San Lucas. Besides taxis and busses, we also saw interesting vehicles called a pulmonia. They were an open air taxi that looked like a juiced up golf cart. They are unique to Mazatlán.

The tour bus brought us back to the cruise terminal by 1:30 pm. As we entered the cruise complex, we found a bar located in the center plaza surrounded by shops. They had a DJ playing fun music (much better than one on the ship) along with seats under the shade with fans blowing all over. We decided to stop for some cold beer listening to the music and chatting with other fellow passengers. They were selling Jell-O shots of tequila and a lot of people were enjoying those. It was a good time hanging out there. We went to ship using the tram by 4:00 pm. Sail away was at 5:00 pm. After grabbing a bite in the buffet, we headed over to the Serenity area to hang out by the pool and hot tub.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. In the Phantom Theater, they had the second Playlist Production show for the cruise. It is called "Heart of Soul". In this show, the singers perform to songs by Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and other Motown/soul Artists. It is okay, but not one of our favorite shows. Down at the Red Frog Pub, the house band was playing Motown Music. We ended our evening there. For tonight, we had a notice that asked us to change our clocks forward by one hour a second time to match the local time for Puerto Vallarta.

Day 5 – Puerto Vallarta
It was a day that was sunny in the mid 80’s F and very humid compared to our last two port visits. We were scheduled to arrive in Puerto Vallarta at 8:00 am and depart at 8:00 pm. We arrived at the dock at around 8:00 am and were the only ship in port this day. The city has a population around 250,000 people and is located in the Mexican state of Jalisco. This was our second visit to the city. Our plans were to leisurely explore areas near the cruise port on our own. We went to the buffet for breakfast at 9:00 am before going to a trivia game. After that, I went for a run on deck 10 which was clear of people and lounge chairs since everyone was going off the ship today. I was able to run complete loops for my 5K run.

We were walking off the ship by 11:30 am. As we walked through the cruise terminal area, we came up to a rank of passenger vans offering trips to various zones. We met a family of five that asked if we were going to the Malecón and church area which we were. We agreed to join up with them and the ride cost us $5 each.

Just a note about taxis in Puerto Vallarta. Just outside the cruise terminal exit is a gas station at the corner of the main street that leads towards the city center. Here you will find rows of yellow taxis waiting to take you anywhere. The only hassle is that you have to negotiate a price. The one tip I received was to ask them for a price and then offer a price half of that. They will usually settle for the lesser amount. From the cruise terminal to the Malecón & church area should cost no more than $10 USD.

It took us about 15 minutes to reach the spot on the Malecón that faces the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe (La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe). This church has an iconic steeple structure. It is one of a kind. It is faced by a large plaza with the city hall off to one side. We walked into the church as they were starting the noon mass. After the mass, we walked around to take pictures before heading back to the Malecón where we took a left and walked towards a large vendor market area. Here, the vendors were very aggressive and made us feel uncomfortable, so we walked towards the beach and over a large pedestrian bridge to an area known as the old town or romantic zone. Here the road was lined with restaurants along the beach and hotels on the other side. After walking a bit, we decided to enter a restaurant called the Red Onion to sit in the shade and have some cold beers while watching pelicans dive for fish competing with fishermen casting for fish in the surf. It was a relaxing time. We stayed there for about an hour before we decided to catch a cab back to the ship. After meeting with few drivers, we found one to take us back for $10 USD.

Just inside the cruise terminal complex, they had a few shops for last minute souvenirs and a couple of bars offering drink specials. Here, the beers were warm, so we headed back to the ship by 5:00 pm.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. We grabbed an early dinner in the buffet before going to the serenity area to relax by the pool and hot tub. We stayed there for the 8:00 pm sail away and were rewarded with a beautiful red sunset that we sailed towards. The red sunlight reflected from the windows of the many buildings along the shore. It was a beautiful sight.

The show per se for the evening was the Love and Marriage show held in the Phantom Lounge at 10:15 pm hosted by Cory the CD. They had 3 couples up on the stage answering semi-embarrassing questions. It was a fun show. After the show, we went to the pool area for the Red Frog Beach Party for a short while before ending our evening. For tonight, we had a notice that asked us to change our clocks backward by one hour to start the process of getting back to west coast time.

Day 6 – Day at Sea
It was a partly sunny day with temps in the 70’s F and a cool breeze. Today, we slept in and did not make it to breakfast until 10:00 am. After breakfast we attended a few trivia games that were all held in the Fountainhead Café area. By noon that day, we were near Cabo San Lucas and could see it off in the distance. I went for a run on the deck 3 promenade again. It was very peaceful down there.

After lunch in the buffet, we went back down to attend a few more trivia games. While there, we had our first whale sighting. Someone yelled out whale. My wife spotted it right away while I only saw the tail going up in the air and then disappear under the water.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Elegant. We decided to go to the Bacchus Restaurant for an early dinner at 5:45 pm. My wife ordered the flank iron steak while I ordered jumbo shrimp (not very jumbo). Neither one of us were impressed with our meals. My wife mentioned that her steak tasted the same as the prime rib she had a few evenings ago. This time, our wait staff were just OK. They were polite, but just seemed to be going through the motions.

In the Phantom Theatre was a third Playlist Production show called “88 Keys”. This show had the singers perform to piano playing hit songs by Elton John, Billy Joel, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc. Gosh, we really miss the full blown production shows. Down in the Punchliner Comedy Club, they had two new comedians performing. Both are actors and were recognizable. Steve White had 3 shows (1 PG and 2 18+) and Rondell Sheriden had 2 shows (1 PG and 1 18+). We sat through the first two PG shows and the first 18+ show when everyone was asked to leave and that they meant everyone. As we left the theater, we could see why. There was a long line of other passengers that wanted to get into the club to see a show. We later spoke with people that said that they never made it to any of the comedy shows that night. They could have easily filled the Phantom Theater with everyone that wanted to see those two comedians. They were certainly more entertaining than the Playlist show.

We, once again, ended up at the Red Frog Pub to listen and dance to the band that were playing disco songs this evening. Everyone was having a great time along with the CD staff. For tonight, we had a notice that asked us to change our clocks backward by one hour once again to get us back to west coast time.

Day 7 – Day at Sea
It was a nice day with mostly sunny skies. The temps were in the low 70’s and calm seas. By 9:30 am, we were making our way up the coast of Baja California reaching a point called Guerrero Negro. We spent the morning playing a few trivia games before and after breakfast. In the early afternoon, we went to use the indoor hot tub located in the spa/gym area. All day, they had plenty of activities for passengers to choose from; art auctions, bingo, dance classes, shuffleboard and bean bag tournaments.

At 4:30 pm, they had a VIFP reception for Past Guests (Gold, Platinum, & Diamond) in the Phantom Theatre. They offered free drinks and small hors d’oeuvres while the DJ played music. Cory and his CD staff were there to welcome us along with some of the ship's management staff. Cory then introduced a short film about the history of Carnival and all of the ships they have had in their fleet. After the film, they brought up the Diamond members for a photo op. For this cruise, there were over 300 gold passengers, over 100 platinum, and 6 diamond. They did not have any of the Captain's staff there or have any raffle prizes.

After the VIFP guest party, we went to our cabin to pack our luggage which needed to be put outside of cabin between 9:00 pm and 11:00 pm since we were not using the self assist disembarkation option.

The dress code for this evening was Cruise Casual. We went to the Horatio's buffet for our last dinner on the ship. In the Phantom Theatre, the main show was a comedic juggler named Sideshow Bert. We chose to see the comedians instead.

For tonight they had the same two comedians as the previous evening with five shows to choose from: Steve White had 2 shows (1 PG and 1 18+) and Rondell Sheriden had 3 shows (1 PG and 2 18+). We saw the PG show with Steve White and an 18+ show with Rondell Sheriden which was hilarious. After the show, everyone had to leave the room to let others in. Again, I think they could have filled the Phantom Theater with people that wanted to see these shows. In the Red Frog Pub, they had the house band playing along with the two solo guitarists to provide non-stop continuous music for the evening. We stayed there for a few hours before heading back to our cabin.

Disembarkation Day – Long Beach
It was a sunny day with temperatures in the low 70’s F. We were scheduled to arrive in Long Beach by 9:00 am. Our instructions had told us that we needed to be out of our cabin by 8:30 am. This was to allow the cabin stewards to have their cabins cleaned and ready for new passengers later that day. I went up to the buffet at 7:00 am to get some tea for us and saw that we were already docked. We went to the buffet for breakfast at 7:30 am.

At 8:00 am, they announced that the first wave of self-assist passengers could start heading to the gangway. We headed back to our cabin to pack our carry-on bag and then headed up to the serenity area to wait for the announcement of when we could disembark. At 9:00 am, they announced that the second wave of self-assist passengers could disembark. At 9:25 am, they made the first announcement for passengers with checked bags could disembark.

At 10:30 am, they announced the numbers we were assigned could disembark. We headed to an elevator to go down to deck 3 where we found a long line of other passengers waiting to get off the ship. It took us about 30 minutes to wind our way off the ship and into the cruise terminal where we went through border patrol and then to the luggage pick-up area.

After we found our luggage, we stepped outside and found a rank of taxis immediately off to our left. In a few minutes, we were on our way to the Long Beach Airport to pick up a rental car I had reserved. We spent the rest of the day driving up to Los Angeles where we walked around Hollywood Boulevard for an hour, checked into a hotel on Sunset Boulevard, and then went to Dodger Stadium for that night's game. We stayed the night and attended the Sunday afternoon game at Dodger Stadium before we went to Burbank where we had dinner and then dropped off our rental car at the Bob Hope Airport to catch a red-eye flight to JFK. Flying into Long Beach and then out of the Bob Hope airport was very easy compared to the chaos of LAX airport. I definitely recommend that. We had a celebrity sighting on the flight when we spotted actress Joy Bryant from the TV series "Parenthood" in line with us.

The Ship
The Carnival Miracle was built in 2004 as part of the Spirit class for Carnival and had dry dock renovations in April 2007, February 2009, January 2012, and March 2015. Her sister ships are the Carnival Spirit, Carnival Legend, and Carnival Pride. The theme of the ship is based on literary characters and we discovered plenty of different ones around the ship including Sherlock Homes, Hercule Poirot, and Robin Hood. The stairwells were filled with paintings and crystal vases.

The large fitness center has two floors. There are a wide variety of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and other pieces of equipment available at all times at no extra charge. All of the equipment faced out to windows. They offered optional classes for a fee. There was an indoor hot tub found here as well that was available to everyone. The entrance to the gym was found in the spa area. The Spa has several treatment rooms with separate locker rooms for men and women along with steam rooms and saunas. They offered spa treatment specials during port days. The Hair Salon is located there as well.

The running track was found on the Sports deck. A sign posted stated that it takes 15.2 laps to complete a mile. On the same Sports deck was the mini-golf course and a small basketball court surrounded by a net.

The best kept secret on the ship was the outside promenade on the Atlantic deck. It wrapped around the ship from Great Gatsby’s on the port side to the aft and back to the starboard side of Great Gatsby’s which was about 2/3 of the ship. There were no deck chairs to be found, which we thought was strange. We enjoyed walking along this part of the ship where the only sound you heard was the waves going by the ship. For my 5k runs, I only had to make 6 laps (port to starboard and back to port) on this deck compared to 48 laps on the sports deck where I would have had to dodge people playing mini golf or just walking around. We would have enjoyed being able to sit down in the shade on this deck and watch the waves go by. During the course of the cruise, we rarely saw other people on this promenade.

As mentioned, the lido deck has three pools with two pools midship and one aft. All are only 4 ft 6” deep. There are hot tubs next to each pool. There was no cover over any of the pools to provide any shade. On the Sports deck was a small kid’s pool not near anything and the entrance to a water slide that did not end up in a pool. On the sea days when it was sunny, the hot tubs that were mid ship were filled with young kids along with toddlers in swim diapers. We avoided those hot tubs. Even though there were rules published against this and reserving chairs, there was no enforcement of them.

The adult-only Serenity area is found aft on the Lido Deck with a swimming pool and a hot tub along with lounge chairs, hammocks, clam shells, and a drinks only bar. The clam shells took up a lot of space and blocked the aft view from this area.

Navigating the ship was far easier than on our previous Carnival cruises. The Spirit class ships have the best layouts that we have experienced on Carnival ships. I think this is because of having just the one large main dining room that is situated aft. The hallways with odd number cabins were on the starboard side while the even numbered cabins were on the port side of the ship. They did not have a bridge viewing room.

A nice quiet area of the ship with seats and views of the water is found on the Atlantic deck forward. It is called Gatsby’s Garden Interior Promenade. The port side of the promenade seemed to have more foot traffic with people going to the kid's club and video game room that were forward of them.

We thought that while the ship has a large atrium area, they could use the space better. On deck 2, there is a lobby where they have a bar with a small stage behind it for musicians. But, there were limited seats and tables there. The rest of the area is a dance floor. Then, on deck 3, they had a wraparound area that overlooks the lobby below. But, it was totally filled by the photography department instead of seats, tables, and maybe another bar. The guest services desk and the tours desk were both located in the atrium lobby on deck 2.

They had a disco bar that has a light-up dance floor. The entrance to Frankenstein’s Lab was found next to the Alchemy Bar. You then had to walk down a circular set of stairs to go to the dance floor along with additional chairs and tables. The main show room was the Phantom Theatre which holds about 1,000 passengers and has entrances on 3 decks. There are some poles to contend with. We always found a seat for a show.

Laundrettes: There are 5 small laundry rooms located around the ship. They had keycard operated washers and dryers along with an ironing board and iron. They also had dispensers for soap packets.

Riviera Deck 1 - midship / across from 1219
Main Deck 4 - aft / across from 4230
Upper Deck 5 - aft / across from 5270
Empress Deck 6 - forward / across from 6102
Verandah Deck 7 - midship / across from 7267

Our Cabin
We prefer inside cabins. With the Miracle, the inside cabins, ocean view cabins, and most of the balcony cabins are all 185 square feet inside. Our cabin (7217) was laid out in a left/right manner where the beds faced the right wall instead on the cabin door which we thought was better. The cabin had more than enough room for the two of us. There were three closets. Two came with bars with 10 hangars each while the other closet had shelves. We stored our 2 large pieces of luggage under the beds. There were two terry cloth robes for our use. There is a safe and a small fridge in the cabin. The safe could only be locked with a credit card or a driver’s license that had a magnetic stripe.

The bathroom had a shower with a cloth curtain with dispensers for body wash and shampoo. There was a soap dish. We were surprised that the shower area did not have a safety bar to hold on to. The hair dryer was located in a drawer by the mirror and desk inside the cabin. The desk had several drawers for added storage.

The location of the cabin was only a few steps from the mid-ship stairwell. Going up to the Lido deck on deck 9 in the morning took only a 2 deck walk. We try to do the stairs as much as we could. My morning routine was to walk up to Horatio’s buffet with insulated mugs to get our morning tea while getting ready to face the day.

Dining
There were several dining options on the Miracle. For dinner, the Miracle has only one large main dining room with assigned early and late seatings, the Bacchus Restaurant. It is found aft on the ship and takes up two floors on decks 2 and 3. They offer “Your Time Dining” which allowed you to show up at the restaurant on deck 3 and when they had an available table you would be seated for dinner. In addition to the Bacchus for dinner, they have Horatio’s buffet style restaurant on the Lido deck and Nick and Nora’s Steakhouse found on the Sun Deck.

Inside Horatio’s, they had several stations which included an Asian station, a Deli sandwich bar, a salad bar, 2 carvery stations that offered different foods each day, and a 24 hour pizza bar. They also had a coffee bar where you could buy Starbucks style of coffees. While these stations in the buffet were all open for lunch, they did not offer the Asian station and one of the carvery hot stations for dinner. The Asian food station in the buffet was definitely the most popular one during lunch with the longest lines. It is too bad it was not open for dinner. The dessert selection in the buffet at lunchtime was far greater than at dinner. On one sea day, they had a station in Horatio’s used for a chocolate bar with a variety of desserts and fruits being dipped in chocolate. For breakfast, you had to go to Horatio’s buffet. They had extra omelet stations set up at the pizza bar and other food stations. For lunch, you could go to Horatio’s buffet inside and their grill by the pool. During breakfast in the lido buffet area, they had fountains with OJ, Passa-Guava Juice, Apple Juice, and unsweetened ice tea along with water. For the rest of the day, these fountains offered lemonade, iced tea, and water. We felt that that the food offerings during the lunchtime were as good, if not better than options in the dining room for dinner.

The Steakhouse had an added fee of $35 per person and required a reservation. Its dress code was cruise elegant every night except for the evening we were in Puerto Vallarta with our 8:00 pm sail away.

They offered 24 hour room service with a limited menu.

There is a taste bar (no fee) just outside of the Skybox Sports Bar and the Fountainhead coffee and pastry bar from 05:30 pm to 08:30 pm. Here they offered small samples of different types of food. The Fountainhead Café on deck 2 forward offered coffees and pastries for a fee.

For foodies, they also offered “The Chef’s Table”. For a fee of $75 per person, you would have a personal meal with the executive chef who would provide a private galley tour and a multi-course meal for a small group. You needed to make a reservation for this event.

Internet Service
They had several plans for internet service which included wi-fi around the ship: $0.75 per minute; $29 for 45 minutes; $59 for 120 minutes; $89 for 240 minutes; and $159 for 480 minutes.

Bar Service
There were plenty of spots on the ship to get alcoholic drinks. On deck 1, there was the Mad Hatter's Ball Lounge. On deck 2, there was the new added Alchemy Bar, the Metropolis Lobby in the atrium, Mr. Lucky's Casino, the new Skybox Sports Bar, and the new Red Frog Pub. On deck3, you could go to the Gotham Lounge or Sam's Piano Bar. On deck 9, you had the Serenity Bar located aft and the Odyssey Bar located between the two main pools

We are beer drinkers and Carnival offered beer bucket specials where you would get 4 beers (mix and match) with a $2 discount for the bucket. Carnival did offer a craft beer on tap called the Thirsty Frog Red Ale. It is ok, but at least they are trying to offer something other the usual mass produced beers on tap. Big craft beer bonus for me was that for this cruise they had two Sam Adams beers (the Lager and the Rebel IPA) and a Sierra Nevada beer. They did have daily drink specials as well. There were some martini tastings on a few occasions.

Fun Ship 2.0 Renovations
Before we sailed, we had read about the planned renovations. For our cruise, not all of the improvements had been implemented. We spoke to a technician who said that they were trying to roll out a new one each week. Here is the list of the planned items:

Red Frog Pub – This was on board replacing the former Frankie and Johnnies bar
Alchemy Bar – This was on board replacing the former Jeeves Lounge
Playlist Productions – a total of four shows; 88 Keys, 80's Pop To the Max, Getaway Island, and Heart Of Soul – For our cruise they had all up and running except for Getaway Island which was scheduled to start during the next few cruises. These replaced the full production shows like Ticket to Ride and Generations.
Seuss At Sea – This was not available on our cruise.
Hasbro, The Game Show – This was not available on our cruise.
Cherry On Top – On board, replacing the former Formalities Shop
Sky Box Sports Bar – On board, replacing the former Maguire’s Sports Bar
Spin U – I did not seen any notice of this on our cruise. But, there were very few teenagers on board this particular cruise.

Not included in the 2.0 Renovations on the Miracle and sorely missed were the Guy's Burger Joint and the Blue Iguana Burrito Bar. These would have been welcome additions to the ship as we had them on our last cruise and they were the most popular food stations during that cruise. So I guess that they should have listed this round of renovations as Fun Ship 1.5.

Past Guest Program
We are rated as Gold Members of Carnival’s Past Guest Program and we were invited to the Past Guest party. We only need to book 13 more days on Carnival to reach their Platinum level at 75 days.

Activities
There were plenty of other things to do on aboard for all interests. They had the usual plethora of bingo games and art auctions as well as poolside games. For kids, they had something called Beary Cuddly where you could buy stuffed animals along with outfits for them.

We took advantage of the several trivia games (which we enjoy) they offered during the cruise. We met up with several friendly people and we enjoyed their company and conversations. We won 2 “Ship on a Stick” trophies and a set of medals playing at those games. The casino is open during times at sea. We do not gamble, so we cannot comment on the slots and gaming tables.

Music
They had a variety of musical options on board to entertain people at various locations and times. The Hot Tub Rhythm Band played in the Red Frog Pub most evenings. They had two solo guitarists; Dustin and Wonder that played by the lido deck pool, the atrium stage, or the casino stage. In Sam’s Piano Bar, Russell was playing most nights. The two musicians called Duo Murano played music for dancing at the atrium stage. DJ Goa spun his tunes by the lido pool and at the disco (Frankenstein Lab).

Crew
Cory Rogers (Tennessee), the cruise director was very visible. He had a morning TV show, attended most events, and could be seen walking around. We thought he did a great job as a CD. The rest of the cruise staff were very friendly, especially Abbey (Kentucky), Hailey (California), Gary (Glasgow), and Peter (Liverpool). We did see the captain at the first of the cruise elegant nights.

Our room steward Agus was assigned 24 cabins to service during our cruise with his team. He did a terrific job meeting our requests and making sure that the cabin was cleaned and prepped twice every day. We always had fresh ice in the bucket waiting for us as well.

Overall
We enjoyed our cruise on the Miracle. We had terrific weather and calm seas. We liked the 3 ports on this itinerary.

Pros:
The cruise director staff were fantastic. They were everywhere interacting with the passengers with activities and in the lounges. They were a fun group of people. Kudos to Cory and his team.

The house band in the Red Frog Pub. They were great at playing a wide variety of music during the cruise.

The food in the Horatio’s Buffet, especially the Asian Station and the dessert station.

The itinerary with 3 port visits in Mexico. I am glad we got to visit Mazatlán.

Cons:
Production shows in the Phantom Theater. We really miss the full production shows especially “Ticket to Ride” which is a great show for Beatles fans and our favorite of the shows we have seen on Carnival cruises. The Playlist production shows seem empty and lacking even though the singers are terrific.

Seating for the Punchliner Comedy Club. I would think that they could recognize the draw of certain comics and utilize the Phantom Theater to accommodate everyone (bonus, more people sitting down means more drink sales).

The only negative in the buffet was the hamburgers from the grill by the pools which were always overcooked and dry. (Hint, hint: add a Guy’s Burger on board).


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